What We Know, Who We Are, What Will Be

comments 49
Course Ideas / Reflections

As we embark on a new calendar year, I am intrigued, as I usually am, by the notion that a life is a unique and particular trace through the unknown. But I am even more deeply stirred by the idea that an integrity to each path is preserved, akin to the deepest natural laws ever discovered, that sustains at all times a most succinct route possible through suffering, regardless of what our choices may have been in the past. This perpetual sustenance presupposes that in every moment, a perfect response is given to the parameters of our knowing, our acting, and our being, such that our lives proceed inevitably through ignorance and difficulty, to grace.

Our unknowing, if you will, proceeds inevitably to knowing. But we have a role in this process. We can witness the underlying thread connecting our aspirations, our pain, our dreams–our most subtle natures, even–or we can remain distant from this active force in our lives. Either way it is not always easy-going.

We think sometimes that life would be easier, more enjoyable even, if we could carve out a self-perpetuating niche of solace, something like a trust fund of peace and quiet, or safety, in which we could remain. But our lives drag us forth from these niches and inevitably undo their very foundations, time and time again, so that we are unable to carve out from the wilderness of unknowing the one thing we have sought–some insulation from the travails of chaos and disappointment, from the threat of illness, poverty, isolation, and of course, the abyss of a mediocre status quo. A dull and grinding hanging-on that’s like the personal heat death of our universe.

This principle I am seeking to describe does not allow for psychological or physical retreat from the frontier of one’s imperfect knowing, because it is this frontier which is precisely the avenue held open to us through which wisdom may be encountered, and suffering undone. If one wishes to experience this movement towards grace as the very substance of their inner life, it helps I think, to accept that all other explanations for events are secondary to this fundamental force of being. Events themselves mean very little, but they reveal us. What is truly occurring in any circumstance is invisible, and most readily understood in terms of one’s unique awareness of resistance and desire.

While our personal desires are objectified or idealized–while we are striving in other words towards some consciously constructed ideal–then the tendency is to interpret our experiences through the lens of this desired outcome. Most often this leads to a resistance in one form or another to what is happening. Resistance sets into motion responses on our part that are intended to change something. This leads us into circular experiences I think, until we discover that the idealized outcome, the object of all our pursuits, was not actually one that life itself is willing to sustain. It was always a false premise.

* * * * *

At the same time, I love that when the dust settles, we know ourselves. We know ourselves with an intimacy and a depth that is astonishing. We know our tendencies, our loves, our needs and our desires. And they are good. We know without needing to even think about it what makes us uniquely who we are. And if we sit with this knowing a little while, I think we even discover we’re each happy about who we are. We don’t really want to be someone else.

I like to read, to write, to get into deep conversations I can’t find my way back from. I like to explore ideas in physics and biology, to learn about the discoveries that propel us to new understanding, but I can only go so far before I must let it all fall away and abide for a time in the simplicity of being. I have to remain in contact with a visceral, effervescent inkling I feel at the core of my being that I can neither justify nor communicate to another human being. It enfolds me, bleeds across the boundaries I have constructed, flows in and out of who I think I am. The social interaction I most require is the quiet, intimate conversation or correspondence, and time spent alone to write or dream or create is a precious resource. But every half hour I wander down the hall to see what my wife is up to. This is who I am.

These are not the things we must forego. None of these individual inclinations or personal nuances create barriers to engaging deeply in the processes of life–processes that nudge us into healing, and then beyond the threshold into fields of pure creation. The edge we must lose to release our suffering is the edge of separateness, the edge of specialness, the edge of not good enough, the edge of vaunted ideals, the edge of resisting. As I write this a great many humans are in poverty, grappling with some form of disease, feeling put upon, encumbered, guilty, or uncertain of how best to proceed. In my heart I hope these become the hallmarks of a passing age. I can see how they might. When the puzzle pieces fall to the floor, in fact, I can see that they already have.

It’s intriguing to realize these are all just ideas–that we are bound so coherently to our ideas we can hardly distinguish them from the events in which they speak. It is all but impossible to comprehend that feeling as certain about different, new ideas as we do about the world we see today would yield a very different experience. We are not being led to a grace in which our unique and given talents, proclivities and attributes are lost, but one in which they are free of the need to be something different, something more, something perfected. I think the miracle of life is that it would ask us to be only who we are–nothing more and nothing less. And I hope in this year we each may recover a taste of the peace that resting on that simple, ineffable memory of who we are can offer us.

49 Comments

  1. “Like” seems hardly adequate for such a post, so I hope to respond more at some point. It also seemed wrong to not say anything, so know that it resonates: so much that I need to give another read on another day that’s not been so loaded with the kinds of battles that would undo me… And now that seems too icky an offering for the beauty and cogency you’ve offered here. Thank you, forgive me, well done, Jesus rocks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Amy. Glad you enjoyed it and felt some inner pull reading this one. And hopefully those battles have calmed down a bit, and you are enjoying a nice weekend! Icky, beautiful, plain–it’s all welcomed. Wishing you much peace this day–

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  2. footloosedon says

    Beautiful, mystical, almost comprehensible. Like Amy above, I need to read it on another day to understand what you are saying so lovingly.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Don, I felt I rambled a little here to be honest. It was kind of like hunting for a glimpse of wildlife–seeing a flash of it but not quite getting that frozen, startling moment that sticks to the insides of your heart and mind like buckwheat pancakes. But it’s nice to know you’re out in the forest with such beautiful creatures.

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the insightful musings Michael. I’ve had glimpses of this level of self-acceptance. I would love to rest there more often, or dare I wish full-time? to peace and acceptance…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Brad,

      I think it’s natural to wish to dwell there more often. I think we make it difficult on ourselves when we equate this idea of peace and acceptance with some idealized notion of things. We set up this barrier we just can’t cross… It’s interesting to realize right here is okay. Not right here as the world defines it, but right here as we come to know it in our hearts…

      Peace and Best Wishes for 2017, Brad!
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

    • Such a lovely reply, David! I think if I was ever to try and explain my theory of everything I would end up mumbling something unintelligible to myself within about twenty minutes. It’s good to know we don’t know isn’t it!?

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So beautifully written, Michael, almost teasingly so, but I trusted in you to deliver the coup de grâce to my flailing tassels of unknowing, and doing so in precisely the manner anticipated. All the while I read I was thinking this was fundamentally about the nature of thought, and identifying with it, being trapped unwittingly within it. For the sake of clarity, it was your words here: “we are bound so coherently to our ideas we can hardly distinguish them from the events in which they speak.” This has echoes of Jung, who said, and I paraphrase: “we slip imperceptibly into a conceptual world”. It is almost enough to realise just this. Many congratulations on such a superb piece of wordsmithing, my good friend!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you very much, Hariod. As I mentioned to Don I did have the sense of wandering aimless on this one, trying to contact ideas that resist coming wholly into focus. It’s kind of like walking through a beautiful wilderness: you just feel the majesty all around you, but you can never quite find it’s location. It’s not the particular scene in front of you, it’s not if you zoom in and look at one tiny thing with great concentration, so you keep being drawn along by this magnetism or beauty. And it’s not the whole scene either, the view of an entire valley which compels you to venture into it for a closer look. It’s this sensation of presence that saturates each vantage point as well as bleeds over the lines.

      I do think we slip so easily into a world of concepts. It is uncanny really. It is almost impossible not to take the orientations of language as self-obvious, or as perfectly correct. But in language words have a discrete beginning and ending, and the life to which those words point seldom, if ever, exists so distinctly.

      Peace and Happy New Year!
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

      • Quite so, and perfectly expressed: “It’s this sensation of presence that saturates each vantage point as well as bleeds over the lines.” ‘Presence’, ‘Awareness’, ‘Presence in Awareness’ (you also call it ‘Grace’) – just this is enough, and swiftly to realise, post hoc, that having once again slipped imperceptibly into our narrowly conceptual world, that none of it was our home, not where we were, nor what we were, nor even how we were, but solely imagery conjured by the brain and senses as they engage the world. It’s the mind making things happen amidst the perfect stillness of awareness and presence. We (as awareness) exist both inside thought and beyond it, yet never as we might conceive ourselves as so doing, for that is to be trapped in thought, and hence is a partial reflection only of how we exist. Perhaps this is why it’s so hard to express in words, even for one such as yourself.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, I think so, Hariod. I like to call it grace because this realization that the narrowly conceptual world was not our home cannot be achieved from within our structures of logic that are so rooted in those concepts. I’ve really grown to appreciate your insight that this swift right turn from conceptuality cannot be reconstructed, so to speak, within that domain. It cannot really be mapped or thought about in the same way that it presents itself when it dawns in our awareness. It can only be encountered freshly. I like the term grace because I like its connotation of the fact that we cannot effort our way across that gap. We cannot even really control it per se, other than perhaps to give our willingness to surrender control of the conceptual domains in which we seem to abide…

          Liked by 2 people

  5. I can relate a lot to the part about resistance and the resulting circular motion.
    However, when you write about how you are and then write that none of these things we must forego, I am not so sure. I hope you are right. Because I am darn afraid that following this suggested underlying life current will rip exactly that away from me, darn afraid that a quiet lifestyle will be replaced by a stressful one. Therefore I am resisting , and running in circles, coming over and over again to the fork in the road where I can choose again between ego or Source.
    Well writte, thanks for sharing!
    Happy New Year and best wishes for your path!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Karin,

      Happy New Year to you as well!

      I think it is important to note that what I was trying to describe was not a lifestyle, but particular traits, quirks of personal identity, attributes of personality and innocent preferences. I think when we try to create a particular lifestyle, it may be an example of trying to carve out that niche of solace like I described. So what I hoped to convey was that even if the lifestyle dissolves and we are thrown into a difficult situation–these aspects of ourselves would remain. They are simply part of who we are. If I were suddenly in a hospital tent during the American Civil War, I would still probably seek to find moments of quiet, alone, to write i a journal beneath a tree, or to share my experiences with a particular person or two who I felt I could be close with. I don’t think I would leave that and suddenly seek to be a financier, or a ship’s captain exploring the coast of Zanzibar. It’s just not the “me” I know… But even in the most harrowing moments in that medical tent, there is some “me” who would still come through. And it is this me, this most familiar element of ourselves, with which I was expressing intimacy and joy about. We couldn’t be without it, as we would be someone else in that case…!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Happy New Year, Michael! I love this piece. Somehow it makes me feel it is alright to be the way I am despite the constant criticism from more social friends. And that means the world to me at this moment. In accepting yourself you invite the reader to do the same and that is such a wonderful, edifying invitation. It’s like you’re saying, “It’s okay.” Like it is the voice of the almighty. Thank you!!
    Peace, love and health for the New Year and always, Ellen

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Ellen!

      Happy New Year! Hope you are well. I’m glad you’ve felt the way you have reading this. I think it’s really important for us to not only accept who we are, but to discover it is joyful to be who we are! Some are more social than others, for reasons that may or may not all be obvious, but for those who are wired this way I think it can be hard for them to understand those who are wired otherwise. Comparison and contract with one another is such a dangerous game when it comes to our well-being I think. Some of the best New Year’s I ever had were spent with a single friend, in one of our houses, back when I was in high school. We would make pizza from scratch in the kitchen, and play some video game or something, and just hang out. So perfect!

      Peace and Love and all good things to you as well!,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Happy New Year Michael,
    Two pieces jumped out at me as I read this profound message today:
    “This principle I am seeking to describe does not allow for psychological or physical retreat from the frontier of one’s imperfect knowing, because it is this frontier which is precisely the avenue held open to us through which wisdom may be encountered, and suffering undone.”
    AND:
    “The edge we must lose to release our suffering is the edge of separateness, the edge of specialness, the edge of not good enough, the edge of vaunted ideals, the edge of resisting.”

    This ‘releasing the edges of my versions of “retreat from the frontier”‘ is exactly what I am working with daily. I imagine that many “others” on the planet are also dealing with these “edges” at this time. These “edges” seem to be in my face 24/7 and I affirm that living in a community with others who are committed to recognizing and releasing their edges makes for some rather intense days. The acceleration toward wisdom and the end of suffering is happening; it is unavoidable. Those who choose to retreat may in fact deal themselves out of this particular game — a faster, fun-ner game.
    I’m being called to release faster and faster to stay on the playing field and at the end of each day I feel a deep satisfaction that I have given my best and release my attachment to the outcomes.
    Bravo for this inspiring call to arms for deeper engagement! Much love, Alia

    Liked by 3 people

    • Happy New Year, Alia!

      My experience is that intentional community certainly brings with it a quickening of this process, not least perhaps because that is often part of the stated intention. We don’t always realize what we’re asking for, I don’t think. 🙂 When we say we want to be able to run faster, and we are presented with sneakers, a hill to run up twenty times at dawn, and a trainer who will settle for nothing but our complete devotion to the task, it seems like we got something other than was requested!

      Here’s to releasing the edges in 2017! I do think we discover there is a joy to it once we get going…

      Peace and Love,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Such beautiful words, and thank you for the New Year wishes! I loved that line on thoughts, like Hariod. Also, I loved to read about that “visceral, effervescent inkling” that you described as flowing in and out of who you are and not being able to communicate that with any other human being. Just accepting that, I think we feel a certain sense of relief, softness, and lightness.
    I loved the line on you checking what your wife is doing every 30 minutes or so. That made me giggle in the midst of this serious post. 🙂 When I used to work from home, I would take a brain break every so often to go check the fridge in hopes someone had put a chocolate cake there.

    Life is indeed like some Cosmic Joke. You know, sometimes, I am upset about my child not brushing her teeth, yelling, after asking 10 times in a row. And she looks at me, starts laughing uncontrollably. I ask, what is so funny. She says: You look really funny when you are so mad! 🙂 And so it slaps us back out into just NOW somehow. Life seems like a concoction of these jokes.

    I loved the feeling of self-acceptance I felt in this piece of expression. ❤
    Adyashanti said, once we come to completely accept ourselves as human beings, we accept the whole universe.
    “One of my favorite definitions of enlightenment comes from a Jesuit priest named Anthony de Mello, who passed away some years ago. Someone asked him to define his experience of enlightenment. He said, “Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” I love that, because it defines enlightenment not just as a realization, but as an activity. Enlightenment is when everything within us is in cooperation with the flow of life itself, with the inevitable.”
    Adyashanti

    Thank you, Michael, for sharing these beautiful pieces and light, and may your year be blessed with much laughter.

    Kristina

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Kristina,

      I love the quote from Anthony de Mello. So good! And it has a funny edge to it, too, doesn’t it? That you and your family dissolve into laughter after a moment of reaction speaks volumes. For me that is the best possible reaction when I’m caught up in something and it is pointed out–to just laugh at myself and how fixated on this thing I have become! But at the same time, your teeth are important!

      I don’t think I would be too successful working from home, Kristina. I would be in the refrigerator far too frequently. Ha! I’m enjoying the return to the office after the holidays, and getting back on track with things. The snacks just aren’t there to dive into, and it can be such a whirlwind time just whips by.

      And yes, I think accepting that ineffable something can bring a lightness and a relief. I need to keep returning to this well, but the good news is that I don’t believe it’s a well to which you can turn too often… 🙂

      Peace and Love
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  9. who i am? and who am i?..always brings forth different ways of being for me….i also appreciate your words…always…now with this post i’m reminded of what you say “movement towards grace”…that is with me…heartfelt Micheal…sending you joy and kindness ~ hedy 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Hedy! You found something to say after all! I appreciate your words, too, as well as what you convey in the images you capture. These questions do bring forth different answers at different times I think–none of us are just one thing, right? At the same time I feel a joy, or a kindness maybe, in accepting the current parameters of our being and our self-expression are good, just as they are.

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh i do usually takes me a moment or more…I formulate my words slowly…and as you probably know not so fond of punctuation…which makes me appreciate your writing even more…I can revisit and re-read and linger in what you share…I wished my pencil was a camera when I was in my girlhood…sending joy…Michael have you read the book “bird by bird”? Have a happy day smiles Hedy ☺

        Liked by 3 people

        • Lovely, Hedy. I have not read the book “bird by bird” but it sounds very good. One of the things I’ve grown to love about winter is the way the birds gather close for that sustenance. My wife does most of the bird-feeding, but it has become a source of joy and introspection all at once. Glad you found some quiet moments to savor here, and wishing you a great day!

          Peace
          Michael

          Liked by 2 people

          • well you’re a writer…the book is Anne Lamott’s …i received it once…not sure what my connection was…and yes it’s sweet to see the birds gather close…have a beautiful day too! om ~ hedy 😀

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ahh yes, I see now, Hedy. Should have looked it up before responding the last time. 🙂 I had another recommendation recently to read Annie Dillard’s book The Writing Life. I am very much looking forward to mixing in some of these works by writers, on writers… I think it will be helpful. The few quotes I read once in looking up Ms. Dillar’d book were all quite inspiring… So many good things to explore in this life… punctuation not being one of them of course…! Ha!

              Michael

              Liked by 1 person

          • I greatly enjoyed Anne’s “Bird by Bird” and “Traveling Mercies” as well. She finds humor in most crushing of the circumstances, and her writing is so very personal and human, with a beautiful thread of faith. Enjoy all your reading! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  10. A beautiful post Michael.. as we deeply reconnect to our inner selves.. Accepting who we are and who we have become.. Yet not afraid to see there is always room for us to expand and grow..
    Wishing you a Blessed New Year Michael..
    Sue

    Liked by 5 people

    • Well said, Sue. Accepting the unique attributes and propensities of our personal expression does not mean we will not expand and grow, or that in our acceptance we will cease to discover and to create new life. That is a very good point. Thank you.

      A blessed New Year to you as well, Sue!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Dear Michael – Thank you for this profound, yet humble New Year meditation. These are the words of someone who has made the effort to grow, who has weathered storms, and who has paid attention the whole time. Enjoy the precious reward of serenity. I wish you a luminous 2017. ✨

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much, Julie. It is a vantage point I hope ultimately is contagious. Learning to accept and trust in the process seems to be one of the most decisive choices we can make–it’s a sea change in our ability to make sense of our inner and outer worlds… Wishing you a luminous 2017, too!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your posts often tend to leave me moving in circles, doubling back like a wrong turn on the highway when the GPS said go here and I went there, so I turn back and often see something unexpected I missed on my way with my horsey blinders on heading in the wayward direction, but my friend, always astute wisdom can be found in your passages. Lost in the maze and yes, will save to re read and then repeat, rinse and then turn around once more. Following the yellow brick road of wisdom dear friend, always, K

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Kim,

      Honestly I think the structure of this post was probably a little convoluted, so it’s not just you! But maybe it’s good for really examining what you find, in a way. That’s what I get out of your comment anyway! Ha! Thanks for the visit and the kind words. Hope you are spreading good cheer and enjoy a lovely day today!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Moving in circles in good ways, perhaps like mysterious crop circles 🙂 Life is good, having a great day, Fitbit making me move constantly but enjoying the challenge, losing weight and watching my diet because of it, also a good thing. Getting a bit of writing done and the sun is shining, and also reading some wonderful literature from one of my favorite authors, hmmmm, wonder who that could be? Peace and love my friend,
        Always,
        K

        Liked by 2 people

        • Ha! Thank you, Kim. I’m so glad you are enjoying the new book! And living life to the fullest, as you do so well. I am continuously encouraged by your example.

          Peace and Love
          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

    • Much appreciated, Ka! I love that feeling of being guided. I think it means we quit, at least for a moment, trying to figure everything out and we just fell into a state of trust. Such a joyful place! May we each be confident and relaxed in shining the light of who we are, right now…

      Peace and Love
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

      • Haha! I quit! But the universe does not accept my resignation statements, my signed papers, my written word. :-D. Life is so beautifully full of contradiction and brilliance. I am nudged again and again back to the work. It is a joyful place to be in the sunshine with friends 🙂 Aloha
        K

        Liked by 3 people

  13. Just lovely, I am feeling supported by your words, elevated by your expression and peace in our connection and playfully curious about what I can offer to “me”. Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds very good, Harlon! I am excited to hear about what you put on offer, to the One who shows up as the “me” in Harlon. Being in positive relationship with ourselves is so essential to our well-being. I know you will have fun with this most glorious task!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    “Events themselves mean very little, but they reveal us. What is truly occurring in any circumstance is invisible, and most readily understood in terms of one’s unique awareness of resistance and desire.
    At the same time, I love that when the dust settles, we know ourselves. We know ourselves with an intimacy and a depth that is astonishing. We know our tendencies, our loves, our needs and our desires. And they are good. We know without needing to even think about it what makes us uniquely who we are. And if we sit with this knowing a little while, I think we even discover we’re each happy about who we are. We don’t really want to be someone else.
    None of these individual inclinations or personal nuances create barriers to engaging deeply in the processes of life–processes that nudge us into healing, and then beyond the threshold into fields of pure creation. The edge we must lose to release our suffering is the edge of separateness, the edge of specialness, the edge of not good enough, the edge of vaunted ideals, the edge of resisting.
    I think the miracle of life is that it would ask us to be only who we are–nothing more and nothing less. And I hope in this year we each may recover a taste of the peace that resting on that simple, ineffable memory of who we are can offer us.”

    So often when I read your pieces, some of the sentences resonate so deeply, I almost feel like I wrote them..or I wish I did. I love how your heart is expressed here, Michael…in all of your pieces. This particular piece is a perfect addition to a conversation I had with my best friend yesterday, one that involved tears and laughter. I will forward this to her. In a way, she will see exactly the words we couldn’t find. We were also talking about that circle in which our resistance rides, that can be so frustrating, and how we look forward to the time when we don’t get so stuck on things we think we want or need, as we don’t really know what’s truly going on.

    Thank you for this. I do love who I am and I love who you are, and it’s all the same – only unique.

    May your New Year bring you even closer to who you are.

    Much love,
    Mary

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Mary! I hope the words ring true with your friend as well. I think many of us are feeling something along these lines. I can’t remember now where I read it, but it seemed a couple of people on-line I saw had written on similar topics around this time. I’m always intrigued by these invisible threads of connection that are running around. 🙂

      And thank you for such a lovely benediction for the coming year. I can think of nothing better to explore in the year ahead. It’s quite beautiful to come closer to that quiet center where we each resound so fully, and then to have these opportunities to share what lives there with one another. That is creation…

      Peace and Love!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  15. “When the dust settles, we know ourselves.” That really resonates with me at this time. The last couple of months I have been covering at the local elementary school and have been too busy to find much time to write. Although I enjoyed the work, it feels like I once again let myself caught up in what others want me to be rather than holding and pursuing my highest vision for myself. (I have one now. In the past I didn’t – making it so easy for me to get sidetracked from my own life). Today was the last day of my extra classes. Tonight I feel a sense of peace inside me. I know my book is calling to be written. It is part of what I came here for. This is who I am – I know it in the peace of my heart. Many blessings on your journey and for a wonderful year ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

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